Adding filters/effects to your photos – good or bad?

It has been a long going trend, most notably with Instagram and Hipstamatic to slap a filter on any photo that you take. As a result we have lots of photos converted to all kinds of retro styles with artificially added “film” grain, faded colors, funny colors, distortions of all kinds and many other “cool” effects. Normal colors in a photo just aren’t cool anymore.

My question is – what does this trend mean to photography as a form of art, and to our perception of what good photography is?

I think nowadays people forget that in the analog age photographers tried hard to achieve the true colors of what they photographed, and to reduce the amount of film grain as much as possible. But now this “retro” look is highly sought after and is created artificially by adding digital effects to initially very good photographs (true colors and no film grain).

Personally I like using these great iPhone apps and playing with various effects to see what they can do to my photographs. But I also think that any effect that you apply to your photo has to serve a purpose, and not be applied just for the sake of it. For example if you photograph your friends at costumes party and they are dressed in the 60s theme, then applying some retro effects to your photos would make sense. However adding these effects when photographing a corporate event is inappropriate.

Another thing that worries me is that many people, especially on Instagram, feel that adding an effect to any photo instantly makes the photo great. So they just snap away their photos thinking that they’ll slap a ‘Sutro’ or ‘Nashville’ on it and they will look like a million dollars no matter what is actually on them. In my opinion you can’t save bad composition by changing the colors.

In conclusion, I think that photography is first and foremost about expressing yourself and sharing your way of seeing the world. If you need to add filter to your image to help do that, then its fine. But slapping filters on all your photos just for the sake of it is simply wrong.

What do you think?